Foucault's Analysis of Modern Governmentality

Foucault's Analysis of Modern Governmentality:A Critique of Political Reason

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Tracking the development of Foucault's key concepts

Lemke offers the most comprehensive and systematic account of Michel Foucault’s work on power and government from 1970 until his death in 1984. He convincingly argues, using material that has only partly been translated into English, that Foucault’s concern with ethics and forms of subjectivation is always already integrated into his political concerns and his analytics of power. The book also shows how the concept of government was taken up in different lines of research in France before it gave rise to “governmentality studies” in the Anglophone world.
A Critique of Political Reason: Foucault’s Analysis of Modern Governmentality provides a clear and well-structured exposition that is theoretically challenging but also accessible for a wider audience. Thus, the book can be read both as an original examination of Foucault’s concept of government and as a general introduction to his “genealogy of power”.


  • At last English readers have a chance to read Thomas Lemke’s pioneering study of Foucault’s work on power, governmentality and political reason. At the time of its original writing, Lemke was working with largely unpublished and little-known materials. Although Foucault's lectures from this period are now all published and translated, the book remains a fundamental work of enduring importance. As well as demonstrating the links between the courses and other writings, it shows Foucault's reconfiguration of earlier radical positions, and the crucial links between late work on ethics and the question of government.

    Stuart Elden, University of Warwick
  • What good fortune to finally have Lemke's prescient and careful study of Foucault's College de France lectures in English! Lemke offers a pedagogical and deeply intelligent interpretation of Foucault's complex ruminations on discipline, the state, sovereignty, genealogy, subjectivation, Enlightenment, truth, critique and above all power.

    Wendy Brown
  • The analysis does more than just stand the test of time, it also makes a valuable
    contribution to the contemporary field of Foucault studies.

    Foucault StudiesPaul Gorby